Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

New Single: "Find Them Empty" by Woods

  "Find Them Empty" by Woods by forcefieldpr

Check out Brooklyn band Woods' new single, "Find Them Empty" off their new 7", which features two singles,  officially released July 19th.  Don't miss their upcoming North American tour, which will bring them to the Independent on July 29th. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Summer Concert Calender

6/20 The Mountain Goats @ the Fillmore (this one is a must)
6/22 Okkervil River @ Fox Theater
6/22 The Kooks @ Slim's
6/23 Rooney @ Slim's
6/24 My Morning Jacket @ Fox Theater
6/28 Dr. Dog @ the Independent
7/2 Ty Segall @ the Independent
7/9 Washed Out @ GAMH
7/19-20 The Avett Bros @ the Fox
7/27 Yuck @ the Independent
7/29 Woods @ the Independent
8/2 Real Estate @ the Independent
8/13-8/14 Outside Lands!! 
9/10 Fleet Foxes @ the Greek
9/22 Bon Iver @ the Greek
9/27 TV on the Radio @ Fox
9/30 Tea Leaf Green @ the Independent
10/3 Handsome Furs @ Slim's

Featured Artist: Yuck

UK band Yuck released their self-titled debut in February 2011 and have spent the last few months touring with Australian psychedelic band Tame Impala.  They recently announced a continued tour for this summer and fall, beginning with an appearance at Pitchfork Music Festival.

They'll be making an appearance at the Independent July 27th (I'm sorry to say I'll be missing the show but I have no doubt it will be great).

Their sound is deeply influenced by 90s grunge bands like Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. which is probably why I'm such a fan.  Download their album Yuck here.

Check out the premiere of their new music video "Shook Down," released yesterday.

Yuck - Get Away from Yuck on Vimeo.

 Milkshake by Yuck

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Listen Now: new Handsome Furs "Repatriated"

Handsome Furs' new pulsing and swirling track "Repatriated" from their forthcoming album Sound Kapital (released June 28th) is another success for Dan Boeckner (also of Wolf Parade) and his wife Alexei Perry.  The duo is definitely on my list to see in concert in the near future, as of course is Wolf Parade (who release their third LP July 29th).

Handsome Furs - Repatriated by subpop

Listen Now: YACHT "Utopia"

YACHT share a track from their upcoming album. "Utopia" is a companion piece to "Dystopia (The Earth is on Fire)."

  YACHT - Utopia by DFA Records

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Sleigh Bells w/ Neon Indian @ the Rickshaw Stop 6/1/11

Last night's show was all about noise: the louder, the better. "San Francisco, make some fucking noise!!" shrieked Sleigh Bells' singer Alexis Krauss into the packed and sweaty Rickshaw Stop crowd at her third and final concert in San Francisco this week. Not that anything could be heard over the gut-wrenching, rib-crushing sound blasting from the amplifier-lined stage.

The night began with a set from psychedelic chillwave band Neon Indian, whose hour-long set was intensely loud yet somehow still laid-back, an impossible combination that Neon Indian's first album, Pyschic Chasms, balances perfectly. Frontman Alan Polomo, who writes, produces, and records all of Neon Indian's music, manipulated intricate layers of dream-pop sound into a hazy cloud of noise that washed over the audience like a drug.

Sleigh Bells' set began with several minutes of screamo rock before the duo even walked on stage. When they finally did, lights flashing, the crowd went wild. Krauss, donning an athletic jersey printed with the name "Bells," reached out towards her cult of fans, who seemed to love each song more than the one before it. Favorites like Rill Rill and Crown on the Ground sent the audience into a dancing frenzy, led by Krauss's constant movement on stage.

Guitarist Derek Miller often faded into the background, despite the fact that he writes and produces all of the duo's music. Tattooed singer Alexis Krauss dominated the stage, and I got the feeling that everyone in the crowd either wanted to be her or be with her. Krauss's haunting vocals floated over the staggering layers of sound as she caressed the over-sized speakers on either side of the stage.

Treats was the climax of the night, synthesizers and feedback reverberating through the walls of the tiny Rickshaw Stop and leaving the audience with no choice but to dance. The noise pop duo's sound is an irresistible juxtaposition of Miller's hardcore rock band background and Krauss's experience singing in teen pop group Rubyblue.

After a half-hour set consisting of eight songs, Sleigh Bells left the stage, leaving the energetic audience in disbelief, clearly not ready to stop dancing. A few seconds later, though, they were back for the encore, beginning with one of their most mellow songs, relatively speaking: Rachel. Krauss's voice floated hauntingly over the synthesizers and pulsing bass drone. The intensity quickly built back up with A/B Machines, sending Krauss crowd surfing through a sea of adoring fans in her metallic leggings and strappy leotard.

Sleigh Bells have only one eleven-song album, Treats, released in May 2010, yet they sold out three San Francisco shows to their quickly-growing cult following, who knew every single song that was played. I have no doubt that their upcoming album release will be largely successful, seeing as all of our ears are still ringing from the Sleigh Bells debut.

  Sleigh Bells - Rill Rill by marinak

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Yeasayer @ The Fillmore 5/25/11

 Experimental rock group Yeasayer's music took on a life of its own at their sold-out Fillmore show last night.  Assisted by extravagant stage lighting and smoke machines, the band immediately captured the packed Fillmore crowd with their larger-than-life music.  The band played a thorough mix of new songs and old favorites from their critically acclaimed albums Odd Blood and All Hours Cymbals in a two hour set that was practically flawless. 

The night began with a raunchy performance from solo-artist Hush Hush, featuring provocative dance moves and songs with names like "69."  Next performed grungy indie-rockers Smith Westerns, whose hazy, washed sound perfectly contrasted the neon lights and pschycadelic visuals of headliner Yeasayer.

Enter Yeasayer: lights flashing, smoke rolling off the stage in thick blankets, just like the walls of sound that vibrated through the crowded concert hall.  In today's technological era, Yeasayer knew just how to manipulate sound without losing the purity of simpler musical moments created by powerful solos and gorgeous vocal harmonies.  All three of the band's main members' distinctive and powerful voices rang out clear over the distortion and sound effects of the band.  Bass player Tuton's impossibly high voice provided the characteristic background vocals on Grizelda, while both Keating and Wilder proved themselves to have impeccable control over their voices even as they danced wildly around the stage. 

Madder Red was the highlight of the night, drawing the audience into a united rally on the soaring "oohs" of the chorus.  Catchy 80s-throwbacks like O.N.E. had the entire Fillmore dancing and singing, while a huge LED screen depicted a silhouette of a naked woman dancing in the background.  Intricate pieces like Wait For Summer showed off stunning vocal harmonies from the three frontmen.  The set closed with Ambling Alp, leaving the audience hungry for more after a time-transcending set that seemed to pass by in minutes. 

The band's encore further proved their talent beyond the technology they heavily rely on; 2080 featured a tight back-and-forth musical conversation between bassist Ira Wolf Tuton and guitarist Anand Wilder.  Time and time again, the experimental psych band proved their musical genius with their overpowering and complex layers of sound.  

Collaboration was key; the five musicians were in constant musical conversation, feeding off of each other's ideas and allowing the music to rise and fall in a way that felt completely organic despite the extensive use of distortion and effects.  Vocalist/keyboardist Chris Keating was in constant motion, adding percussion in one corner of the stage, then dashing to the sound table in the center to mess around with the effects on his own voice.  The band's complex musical collaboration was proof that electronic bands can be just as musically refined as more traditionally-instrumented ensembles.

When Chris Keating announced the last song, no on in the audience was ready to leave.  I was so impressed by the live electronic pysch-pop that I would gladly attend the show again tonight…that is, if it hadn't sold out weeks ago.

View more photos from the show here.  Check out the published review at SFAppeal here.

Photos from Yeasayer @ the Fillmore

Yeasayer 106Yeasayer 118Yeasayer 126Yeasayer 127Yeasayer 130Yeasayer 133
Yeasayer 138Yeasayer 140Yeasayer 152Yeasayer 153Yeasayer 159Yeasayer 162
Yeasayer 182

Photos of Yeasayer at the Fillmore, Wednesday 5/25

Monday, May 23, 2011

PWolf and Avi "Coattails"

Acoustic San Franciscan duo Avi Vinocour (formerly of Stone Foxes) and Patrick Wolf, or PWolf and Avi, aren't famous ... yet.  But after listening to their album, you'll probably agree with me that they very much should be. 

Coattails is the kind of album that is unmarked by time.  It could have been made thirty years ago and it will be just as good in thirty more.  Refreshingly spacious, the album is a collection of beautiful and isolated acoustic songs that are the product of two genius musicians with a knack for songwriting.  Featuring beautiful guitar picking and quirky lyrics, Coattails is as impossibly likeable as the two modest, talented young musicians that created it.

The album's simplicity is what makes it so good; the duo only put in what they really needed to.  "When you have a full band, you feel like everyone needs to play on every song. We only played what we needed to," says Patrick.  In fact, PWolf and Avi originally recorded 14 songs for the album, but picked the 9 simplest tracks to use on the final product.  The result is an organic collection of music that comes across as effortless, raw, and honest. 

Want to know more about PWolf and Avi? Read my feature piece on SFAppeal here.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Echo & the Bunnymen 5/19 @ the Warfield

I didn’t live through the post-punk era of the late 70s, but last night's Echo and the Bunnymen show at the Warfield made me wish I had.  The night wasn't a perfectly preserved slice of the past, but it was a raggedly beautiful echo of an era gone by. 

The band played through their first two albums, Crocodiles and Heaven Up Here, pulling their audience deep into the post-punk genre that once belonged to the Bunnymen.  This decision alone was risky; the audience probably would have been more comfortable with a run-through of the band's compilation album, Songs to Learn and Sing, which features the band's most well-known work.  But running through the first two albums in entirety gave the set a sense of direction and purpose that it otherwise might have lacked, as frontman Ian McCullough struggled to connect with his audience. 

"I'm feeling giggly. I just can't stop giggling," McCullough growled into his mic, face obscured by shadow, sunglasses, and dramatic flashing lights. Prowling the shadowy stage with a cigarette in hand, McCullough continuously demanded that his mic reverb be turned off, though chain-smoking on stage was not doing his aged voice any favors. 

Bass player Stephen Brannan helped with the higher vocal part on A Promise, though McCullough was able to sing the rest of the set without too much difficulty; in fact, his older, grittier voice often complimented the dark and introverted songs of the Bunnymen's early work.  Forgetting the lyrics to one song, he paid tribute to Lou Reed by rallying the audience into a singalong of Wild Side.  He often stopped singing altogether, taking a minute (or several) to chat with his audience, growling unintelligibly into the mic while the band patiently played in the background.

In fact, the men in the background were the most impressive part of the night.  Guitarist Will Sargeant quietly stole the show with his understated but powerful guitar playing, especially in Rescue and Turquoise Days.  Drummer Nicholas Kirlroe had his moment on drum-heavy All My Colours.  Seamless transitions and artful back-and-forths made it obvious that the band had been playing together for years.  By the end of the night, I was ready to listen to the band jam without vocals at all. 

The band's most raw and real moment came in the second set with The Disease.  McCullough's raspy voice was perfectly fitting for the tormented and moody song.  The band sank into a comfortable and murky groove which finally captured its audience and pervaded the rest of the set.

 The encore predictably began with a rough version of what McCullough declared to be "the best song in the world":  The Killing Moon.  Not satisfied with how the Bunnymen favorite sounded, McCullough stopped the song midway and demanded that the band start over – though their second try didn't sound any different from the first.  Unable or unwilling to sing, McCullough had his fans sing the well-known lyrics for him in a dark and unified chorus.  However, the Bunnymen redeemed themselves in their final song, The Cutter, reminding us all what made us love the them in the first place.

If Echo & the Bunnymen are a shadow of their former experimental post-punks selves, it's a shadow that's living, breathing, and passionately clinging to the vital remnants of an era that doesn't deserve to end. 

See more pictures from last night's show here. Thank you to Jessie Joseph, for her photography skills, and her grandfather, for his camera. 

Listen Now: "God Only Knows" Cover

Experimental Detroit duo Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. cover Beach Boys song "God Only Knows."

  Dale Earnhart Jr. Jr. God only knows by gangrenadiario2

Self-proclaimed "musical project with high speed aspirations," the electronic pop duo Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott will release their debut LP, It's a Corporate World, June 7th.  Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. were recently featured on NPR's "Wednesday's Become Electric," which you can listen to here.

The duo will be playing the Rickshaw Stop on Saturday June 4th. 

Download Morning Thought from their forthcoming album for free.

  Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. - Morning Thought by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Discover: Smoke and Feathers

Texas-based psychadelic/indie rock band Smoke and Feathers just released their self-titled debut.  Featuring grungy, lo-fi guitar riffs and southern-rock swagger, the band proves that rock music is still alive and well.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Listen Now: Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi's "Rome"

Producer-composer Danger Mouse collaborated with Italian composer Daniele Luppi for five years to create their much anticipated album, Rome, a tribute to spaghetti-western cinema of the 60s and 70s.  Featuring singers Norah Jones and Jack White (of the White Stripes), the finished product is a beautifully crafted timeless work of art. 

  Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi - Two Against One (Ft. Jack White) by MMMusic

  Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi - "Black" ft. Norah Jones by theaudioperv

Hear Rome in its entirety on NPR's Exclusive First Listen.

 Watch the trailer for the album, which is officially released tomorrow, here.

Listen Now: Ezra Koenig covers Paul Simon

Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend covers Paul Simon's song Papa Hobo.

   Ezra Koenig - "Papa Hobo" (Paul Simon Cover) by

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Peter Bjorn and John @ GAMH 5/13/11

Peter Bjorn and John, or "PB&J," as fans lovingly nicknamed them, thoroughly charmed their audience Friday night at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.  Though the show began with several false starts -- caused by sound system problems -- the bearded Swedish trio laughed it off, joking with their audience to set an intimate and low-key vibe that lasted the rest of the night.  As the set continued, guitarist/vocalist Peter Moren further broke down the audience-band barrier, climbing off the stage to sing and dance amongst his adoring fans. 

The band played three sets, unusual for an indie rock band of this era, but it seemed like they were just having too much fun to stop.  The set opened with May Seem Macabre, a song off their popular new album Gimme Some, which was the focus of the set.  The band took a few songs to warm up, but once they settled into their groove, there was no stopping them.  Songs like Dig a Little Deeper and Let's Call It Off had the audience singing along excitedly while the band showed off goofy dance moves on stage.

The second set began with just Moren and his harmonica -- a beautiful acoustic number that took the audience by surprise.  But he was soon rejoined by drummer Eriksson and bassist Yttling for more upbeat numbers off their newest album, interspersed with older tracks. 

Most impressive was the band's live version of Objects of My Affection, which featured a sudden breakdown to acapella vocal harmonies, followed by a bold build up that showed off the band's more intense side.  Dramatic pauses and breaks in Down Like Me, which Moren joked was written as therapeutic "shrink music" when he was depressed, further proved the band's experience and musical ability, keeping the audience on their toes and ready for more.

The trio made their audience wait til the bitter end for the famous Young Folks, which showcased impressive whistling from Moren and intricate percussion from drummer John Eriksson.  Moren then clambered down into the audience for the second time to serenade his audience from within.

Maybe it was just their charming Swedish accents, but PB&J knew how to befriend their audience. And the music? Well, I suppose that wasn't too terrible either.

Check out more photos and video from the show.

Read a review of Gimme Some or download the album.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Listen Now: "Gallinas Y Lagartos"

  El Santo Nada - Gallinas Y Lagartos by Umberto Palazzo

Italian musicians El Santo Nada released their album Tuco last December, featuring this addictive and beautiful track.  The band has explored every genre from Mexican traditional music to 50s surf rock to British pschadelic rock giving them their tasteful and unique sound.

Discover: The Wind

Harum-Scarum is The Wind's first full-length album, following their EP release in 2008.  The So-Cal indie rockers set themselves apart by releasing a 23-track double album as their debut.  Clearly influenced by 60s bands like The Beatles and Beach Boys, the album's catchy melodies and floating guitars make it the perfect summer album.

You can download the first disc of the album for free on The Wind's website. 

  The Wind - Hathor by thewindtheband

  The Wind - Lucy by thewindtheband

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Peter Bjorn and John "Gimme Some"

 Gimme Some may lack the artistry and depth of Writer's Block, but it's got a certain gritty charm that makes it so much more fun.  Spiced with irony and dark humor, the album pulses with the promise and excitement of youth and shows off Peter Bjorn and John's lighter side. 

The album begins with with its strongest songs, though there's not a song on the album that isn't catchy and unique. The repeated drone chords of the first track, Tomorrow Has to Wait, are reminiscent of Velvet Underground, though infused with PB&J's own youthful bounce. If the first track didn't catch your ear, Dig a Little Deeper proves to be equally catchy, practically begging to be sung along to.  The artful back-and-forth between a vocal chorus, guitar riffs, and lead vocals combines with impossibly catchy lyrics to create a polished upbeat bounce.  Second Chance introduces a tight, syncopated groove that once again reflects the trio's youthful talent.  

Even the album's more mellow tracks, like May Seem Macabre, pulse with excitement.  Darker songs like Black Book are unmistakably Devo-influenced, with simple, repeated guitar riffs driving the song forward with head-bopping energy.

My personal favorite of the album is the darkly humorous Breaker, Breaker, with lyrics like "before you break my heart...I'm gonna break your nose, and sing about it...."  Songs like this are a perfect example of PB&J's ragged charm, rough round the edges, the perfect blend of light and dark. 

I am quite looking forward to this Friday's show at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. Maybe I'll be seeing some of you there!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Portugal. The Man @ The Fillmore 5/6/11

Portugal. The Man never did shy away from risk, and last night was no exception. After almost two hours of opening bands, the crowd was impatient, but that didn't stop PTM from beginning their show with a twenty minute video of stunning Alaskan scenery (the band's hometown) that ended with frontman John Gourley being devoured by his own sled dogs. Not exactly an optimistic way to connect with your audience. But the video accomplished its goal, showing the contradictions between staggering beauty and unthinkable pain, setting the mood for the rest of the band's well-performed set.

The band remained shrouded in shadows and ever-moving lights for the majority of the night. The audience was lucky to catch a glimpse of any of their faces; I saw Gourley smile just once. Yet the powerful music penetrated the wall between band and audience, allowing the pain and anguish to wash over the crowd in ribcage-vibrating bass lines and soulful guitar solos that simultaneously expressed beauty and pain. The audience sang along to catchier hits from The Satanist like Do You and Guns and Dogs, remaining subdued while absorbing and appreciating every musical moment of the show.

The twisted psychedelic set background and smoky laser lights added to the mysterious mood introduced by the film, complimenting the band's deeply powerful sound. It was obvious that the band had played together through many years and an impressive collection of albums. They operated as a single, fluid unit, revolving around Gourley, whose piercing falsetto floated over a shifting instrumental landscape.

Highlights of the show included People Say, one of the band's more positive rallies, and Mornings, which showcased Gourney's mournful guitar solos and striking lyrics. Towards the end of the set, the band built up a complex wall of sound containing sirens, bells, and bongos layered over the band's tight groove.

Gourney's most intimate moment came during the encore, a beautifully crafted version of And I. Stepping to the very front of the stage for the first time, he allowed his distinctive falsetto to reverberate above sparse organ, bass, and drums without any guitar accompaniment. The song then built up to epic proportions, ending the show with a dramatic flare of laser lights and smoke.

Portugal. The Man proved that a band can do it all: be experimentally artistic yet infectiously catchy, boldly flashy yet charmingly modest. I anticipate their upcoming album release, In the Mountain in the Cloud, coming this July.

Special thank you to my photographer Alex Schwartz for these amazing shots of the band. Check out the rest of the photos here. 

See the published version of this article on SFAppeal